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The Knot Chant and the Season of Stitching Magic

October breathes seasonal stitching magic. Many of us find ourselve more intensely focused on our yarn and fiber projects, and we daydream about finishing that sweater or afghan or scarf or fingerless mitts so that we can curl up on the deck with a good book or mug of hot apple cider and watch the colorful leaves fall in that golden autumnal sunlight. Or at least, I know that's what I daydream about.

And there does seem to be something magical that happens with our stitching, spinning, and weaving in the fall. People appear to complete projects a little faster and with a sense of joyfulness, which may be the respite before the crush of time and the rush to finish those holiday gifts--something that threatens us even earlier this year if we need to rely on the postal service to deliver packages to our loved ones.

Perhaps it is in anticipation of that mid-November flurry of work that we tend to savor the projects we work on during this time of year. But, it could also be the season of magic itself that influences our crafting. Fiber work has a long association with the mystical and the magical. Whether you are looking at the Greek myth of Arachne and Athena, where Athena was so jealous of Arachne's weaving abilities that she turned her into a spider, the Norse Norns who spun people's fates at the base of Yggdrasil, the great Tree of Life, or more modern conceptions of stitching magic in novels like The Wishing Thread by Lisa van Allen, the ability to make a thing out of a long piece of string has fascinated the imagination. Even memes have been circulating for years about knitting being an act of magic.

Part of the link between stitching, spinning, weaving, and magic is that fiber arts tend to be repetitive activities that invite meditation, so various chants, prayers, mantras, and songs were often spoken or sung as a way to capitalize and maintain that rhythm. And, many people would use those mantras to imbue whatever they were working on with good thoughts. This is where the folk knitting charm or witches' ladder comes from. There are numerous variations, but basically the poem is:

By knot of one, the spell's begun;

By knot of two, the spell is true;

By knot of three, the spell is free;

By knot of four, the power is more;

By knot of five, the spell will thrive;

By knot of six, the spell is fixed;

By knot of seven, the stars of heaven;

By knot of eight, the hand of Fate;

By knot of nine, this thing is mine.

These associations, unfortunately, did allow for those who were jealous and spiteful of another's stitching/spinning/weaving talents to be cast as somehow other-worldly and evil, so the witches' ladder eventually morphed into the "prayer shawl," a way to continue thinking positive and healing thoughts for the recipient while completing the project without the threat of censure.

Still, the link between fiber and magic is one that persists. There are dozens of novels that play on the idea of fiber being magical or related to magical beings, and any of us who have worked on a project around someone who doesn't knit, crochet, weave, or spin know how fascinated they can be by the things we can whip up with seemingly little effort.

As you indulge in some seasonal stitching and spinning magic this year, I hope you get whatever you wish for while you do so.

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